Posted: Tue 11th Jan 2022

Chester FC: North Wales MS calls for Welsh government to ditch ban on fans attending elite sporting events

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Jan 11th, 2022

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A north Wales Senedd Member has called for the Welsh government to ditch its ban on fans attending elite sporting events in Wales.

Sport in Wales has been limited to 50 spectators since Boxing day as the Welsh government continues its fight against Covid-19’s Omicron variant.

The Covid restriction has seen the Cymru Premier League cancel fixtures until February and has dragged Chester FC into the spotlight over claims it breached Welsh Covid rules.

There is no limit on the number of spectators who can attend sports events in England, at the weekend hundreds of thousands of fans packed into stadiums across the country to watch 3rd round FA Cup ties.

National League North outfit Chester FC has however been warned about playing any further home matches with spectators at its Bumpers Lane ground because it would be breaching the current Welsh Covid restrictions.

The Deva Stadium, built 30 years ago, lies within Wales, apart from the club offices and front car park which sit within England.

The club was summoned to a meeting with North Wales Police and Flintshire County Council – who it pays rates to –  last week and a letter was presented outlining the contravention of Welsh Covid regulations.

The border dispute has become a “real political football” club Chairman Andy Morris said, with “a number of politicians commenting, both negatively and for the club.”

Since the Welsh Covid rules came into play, Chester FC has played two games at the Deva Stadium, on 28 December, 2,075 fans watched their team draw 2-2 with AFC Fylde and 2 January, 2,116 fans watched Chester draw 1-1 with AFC Telford.

Llŷr Gruffydd, Senedd Member for north Wales said that allowing Chester FC to play matches at the Deva Stadium has left “thousands of north Wales sports fans that feeling that there’s an inconsistency.”

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales, the Plaid Cymru MS said: “It’s pretty clear the ground is in Wales, the pitch is in Wales, the stands are in Wales, they’ve been paying rates in Wales and the crowds are congregating in Wales when they watch the football.”

He said: “I’m reflecting some of the frustrations that I’ve heard from north Wales sports fans that there’s an inconsistency here.”

Mr Gruffydd said he doesn’t want to see a ban Chester fans from watching their team, “quite the opposite, I’ve consistently expressed doubts about the Welsh Government’s decision to restrict attendances at sporting events.” He said.

“Last year at games in the Welsh Premier League football fans weren’t allowed to attend pushing fans into pubs and clubhouses to watch the game either on telly or indeed through the clubhouse window in some of the grounds which is even more bizarre.” Mr Gruffydd said.

“So you had this perverse situation where fans were having to watch their team play indoors in confined spaces, which was much more perilous for public health than being better spaced in stands outdoors.” He added.

Talks continued on Monday and according to the BBC “other options” for this Saturday’s home game against Brackley Town “were being looked at.”

BBC Wales reports that “First Minister Mark Drakeford hopes a way can be found through this row – either through the club being compensated like others playing behind closed doors – or Chester plays elsewhere.”

“The suggestion that a switch could be found is likely one that would help resolve the situation in Welsh government eyes.”

Llŷr Gruffydd said he is not looking for the Chester match to be rearranged, “I’m looking for those rules to be changed.”

“It is pretty clear the club is based in Wales, or at least the activity where the crowds are congregating is happening in Wales.”

“If I lived a few yards from another local authority, I can’t choose to pay their council tax because it’s cheaper.“

“We’re all subject to the rules and laws of whichever jurisdiction we’re at and it’s not a quirk or an anomaly for Wales it’s true of every country around the world.

“I’m glad that those discussions are happening because we need a pragmatic solution to this, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are thousands of north Wales sports fans that are feeling that there’s an inconsistency here, that it’s unfair that they’re not allowed to watch their team, but then another country playing in Wales are allowed to do so.”

A Welsh government spokesman said talks were held on Sunday and Monday.

“Throughout the pandemic we have followed scientific and public health advice to keep people safe. We have introduced additional restrictions on sporting events in Wales, which came into force on Boxing Day, to help control the rapid spread of the new omicron variant,” he added.

“Chester City’s stadium is in Wales and the club’s home games are therefore subject to the current Welsh coronavirus restrictions.”

“We have made a £3m budget available to support professional sports clubs and organisations affected by spectator restrictions. As a club based in Wales, Chester FC would be eligible for support.”

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